Celebrations are based on themes selected by the General Assembly, on recommendation of the United Nation World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) Executive Council.
This year it commemorates its 31st anniversary under the theme Tourism and Biodiversity. The WTD 2010 theme is South Africa’s opportunity to explore tourism’s crucial role and responsibility in safeguarding nature’s rich diversity.
Annually, this event rotates between the 6 less visited provinces, namely N.West, E.Cape, Mpumalanga, Free State, Northern Cape and Limpopo. This year Limpopo is the host province.
The celebration of Tourism Month commences with a media launch to mark the beginning of the month, followed by different activities and events at provincial and local government levels culminating in the World Tourism Day celebration.
Since the purpose is to foster awareness among the communities and to promote domestic tourism, this year the events will be used as a platform to promote domestic tourism.
Under the UNWTO World Tourism Day theme Tourism and Biodiversity, WTD 2010 presents the opportunity to our country to explore tourism’s crucial role and responsibility in safeguarding nature’s rich diversity.
“South Africa – one of the most biodiverse destinations in the world”
Biodiveristy’s contribution to sustaining South Africa’s tourism growth
It is important that every South African understands the value of the country’s natural assets and the direct impact that this biodiversity has on tourism and the benefits to the country.
South Africa’s biodiversity is a key tourism asset and fundamental to its sustained growth. Intact and healthy ecosystems form the cornerstone of the many of tourist enterprises and products in our country, attracting many thousands of tourists each year.
As a leading economic activity, sustainable tourism has an important role and responsibility in managing and conserving biological natural resources. As a key source of income and employment in South Africa, tourism often provides strong incentives to protect biodiversity. Sustainable tourism can furthermore generate significant revenues for conservation and community development and help to raise awareness of biodiversity issues.
Tourism and biodiversity are mutually dependent. We call upon all the tourism stakeholders and travellers themselves to contribute their part of the global responsibility to safeguard the intricate web of unique species and ecosystems that make us to be proud South Africans. South Africa’s natural diversity in ecosystems provides essential economic benefits and services to human society – such as food, clothing, shelter, fuel and medicines – as well as ecological, recreational, cultural and aesthetic values, and thus plays an important role in sustainable development. Our biodiversity is under threat in many areas and tourism will play a significant role in developing sustainable destinations.
South Africans are encouraged to join in celebrating the biodiversity that makes South Africa one of the top biodiverse destinations in the world. South Africa is recognised as the third most mega-biodiverse country in the world. This year we focus on the Limpopo Province, with its ancient histories, myths, cultures and the unique flora, fauna and geography that bring tourists to this fascinating province.
Increasing our focus on rural tourism
One of the major priorities for the current term of government is development of our rural areas. Government sees this as an opportunity to diversify the country’s product base and focus on the country’s natural assets in rural areas.
Rural areas, particularly those in South Africa, offer a unique experience that cannot be found anywhere else in world. It is also our view that tourism development can serve as a catalyst for infrastructure development in rural areas. It is also a fact that the majority of poor South African live in these areas and most of them are women who often are bread winners in their respective households.
The lives in these households must change for the better and in this regard tourism has a contribution to make. In line with the available resources, government together with all partners is prioritizing development of five rural based products during the financial year. This will take into account the culture and heritage of these areas.
By packaging and promoting existing rural based products across the country the custodians of our culture and heritage particularly in the rural villages are an indispensible stakeholder in the development of cultural heritage tourism in particular and rural tourism in general.
Sustaining Responsible Tourism
In line with our vision, to be globally celebrated as a leader in tourism excellence, responsible tourism remains a major aspect of the destination’s competitiveness. As a long haul destination, it is imperative that we manage the sector’s carbon footprint effectively. Government in consultation with industry also developed minimum standards for responsible tourism to encourage and certify tourism establishments as being responsible. These will, very soon, be published for public comments.
Domestic tourism is set to rise
South Africa delivers experiences that equal or surpass the expectations of our visitors. The country is gearing to increase the share of tourist bed nights spent in the least visited provinces of the total tourist bed nights spent in South Africa. The least visited provinces in 2008 (North West and Northern Cape) is projected to grow from 3,6% to 5%.
The targets require that bed nights spent in the least visited provinces grow by 7% more than the averages for the most visited provinces and in the mid-level provinces by 5% more per annum.
The target is to increase domestic bed nights from 25% to 34%. The most visited provinces for domestic tourists are Gauteng, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KZN. The target of 34% requires that the bed nights spent in the least visited provinces grows by 5% more than the average growth for the most visited provinces.
The country would work towards increasing the number of visitors and bed nights spend by tourists in rural areas as well as increasing the supply of rural tourism products achieving acceptable patronage and revenue.
The levels of domestic and bed nights in rural areas will form a significant part of the collective efforts to grow the sector. These efforts could be linked to growth in niche market segments eg birdwatching, backpackers. Business registration will be used to develop a base line and track levels of rural product development and sustainability which will form a pivotal part of the thrust for coordinated product development.
Tourism is now a major driver in South Africa’s economic growth and development.
The tourism sector is a multi-faceted industry that contributes to a variety of economic sectors, while also being a labour-intensive industry with the capacity to create jobs. The 2005 Tourism Satellite Account  indicates that tourism directly contributed about R45, 7 billion or 3% to the gross domestic product (“GDP”) of South Africa. About 528 000 people were directly employed in the tourism industry (or approximately 4, 3% of total employment). The direct contribution of the tourism sector to employment is projected to reach 800 000 jobs in 2015 from just under 600,000 jobs in 2009.
Skills development in the tourism sector
As a service based sector, South Africa’s tourism sector’s success depends on availability of skilled and capacitated workforce with a true conviction to service excellence. The department has identified specific critical and scarce skills across the sector’s value chain and will implement specific interventions to close this gap. In this financial year, the department intends to facilitate the training of 150 chefs to alleviate a shortage in this area, particular with regards to black chefs.
Special attention will also be paid to the overall implementation of the sector’s Human Resources Development strategy. Working together with the Department of Education, we will ensure that the curriculum at schools aligns to the needs of our sector. This will be supported by establishing a partnership with industry to create opportunities for experiential learning educators.
We will continue to host the National Tourism Career fair to showcase the opportunities and various career paths available to the youth of our country. In last financial year, we attracted over 12000 participants, largely grade 12 learners